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“I lost an eye, but I like to think of it as gaining a greater vision for life.”

The photo below is me, the day after my accident. A shocking photo, but I think it really brings home the seriousness of what I went through. I have no recollection of this though. The last thing I remember was that I was celebrating getting a new and amazing job and at the end of the night after too many drinks, I stupidly decided to get on my motorbike and drive home. I never made it and ended up in a really bad accident with a car. I only discovered what had happened 2 months later when I came out of a coma.

The stories you’ll read here are from my closest friends who were there in the immediate hours after the accident and of course the many months and years that followed, helping me get back on my feet. They did so much for me and also for my poor mum who had to come to Taiwan and suffer the pain of seeing her son in such a state.

I don’t think I could ever express in words how much I am thankful for all that they and the wider community did. Because of the accident I lost an eye, but I like to think of it as gaining a greater vision for life. It inspired me to continue the Haxstrong movement which they started and it is my life’s mission to make sure that those who are suffering in similar circumstances never feel they are going through it alone.

I made a full recovery, met the love of my life and I’m still working hard to continue the good work that Haxstrong provides to our community.




“I was basically living at the hospital while all of this was happening.”

Henry Young | Gregg Haxton | Jon Hemmings

I was first on scene, it was a Sunday morning around 4:00am and I was called by the police and asked if I knew Gregg, then when I said yes I was told to go to the hospital because he’d had an accident. At this point I had absolutely no idea how serious it was, but went to the hospital to be told that he was probably already dead. I then rushed to the ICU where he was still alive, but in a very bad condition and the doctors told me he would die in the next few minutes/hours/days.

There was no real expectation of his survival except from the brain surgeon, Dr. Yang (and my hero) who vowed to save him through sheer force of will if nothing else (to this day I well up when I think of this). I was told that as Gregg had no family available, I had to make the medical decisions for him, but the doctors were great and amazing with giving me information to make only no brainer decisions until I got hold of his mum a few hours later. I also contacted a trauma surgeon friend in South Africa whose son is a mutual friend of Gregg and mine and they were able to liase with the Taiwanese doctors with regard to making decisions.

Over the next few hours/days/weeks throngs of people flocked to the hospital to give Gregg love and support and it was my job to largely act as bouncer to stop so many people coming into the ICU during visiting time (which luckily is highly restricted) that the ICU couldn’t operate properly. I also liaised with Gregg’s family regarding medical decisions, organizing flights as they were coming out to Taiwan and getting keys for Gregg’s apartment where they needed to stay etc.

Meanwhile, Gregg haemorrhaged again and was taken in for surgery to remove the clot. This was incredibly touch-and-go, as we had been told that if there was another haemorrhage he would die for sure. Dr Yang again seemingly saved him through sheer force of will and Gregg’s stubborn determination not to die. That was the worst 3 hours of my life! The surgery was very successful and Gregg went back to the ICU, still in a coma, and still by no means out of danger, but in a better situation than previously.

I was basically living at the hospital while all of this was happening. Yero Rudzinskas was dealing with the equally daunting task of figuring out how all this was going to get paid for. Yero essentially founded an unofficial charity (Haxstrong) as a way of raising money to help pay for all the expenses incurred in the accident. We set up multiple charity events and fundraisers taking place over a few months that I believe paid at least the majority of the medical and legal expenses.

With regards to the origins of Haxstrong, it was only set up with the goal of helping to raise money to get Gregg better, what Haxstrong has become now and all the wonderful work it does is all Gregg and the amazing team at Haxstrong. What was the same is the huge outpouring of support for Haxstrong and for what we were doing. There were probably at least 60 people involved from the beginning, each taking responsibility in small groups for each fundraising event. By this stage Gregg’s family was here, so I transitioned from being directly involved with his recovery to helping with Haxstrong. 2 months later he woke up after a long slow fight out of the coma bringing him a little closer to consciousness every day. The rest, as they say, is history.




The phone call that all mothers dread! 3am on 5 September 2010, the phone rang to inform me my son had been involved in a motorcycle accident and only had a 20% survival rate.

My friends immediately organised a wave of prayer and we got supportive messages from all over the world. Then, panic set in as we did not have passports or reserve funds to fly to Taiwan where the accident occurred. The medical costs Gregg was facing were also prohibitive.

My family, the communities of Queenstown (Town, Queen’s College, QCOBA and friends), Haga –Haga and Marshstrand, Kingswood College and other groups came to the rescue with funds to help. I don’t know if or how I can ever repay them all. The QCOBA must be singled out for taking all the initial stress out of my hands.

Before I knew it I had an emergency passport, return air tickets to Taiwan and enough pocket money to see me through. I had to stay in Joburg until I got a visa and the Old Boys organised transport and accommodation while the Department of International Affairs and Co-operation and the Taiwanese embassy made it easy to get my visa.

My eldest son Craig, and I flew to Kaohsiung thinking that we were going to say good-bye, but we arrived there to discover Gregg had survived the initial operation. It was still questionable that he would survive. He recognised us, but it was touch and go for the next couple of days. The ICU surgeon kept shaking his head, but the neurosurgeon remained positive the whole time.

We stayed there for a month until Gregg was out of danger and had undergone plastic surgery on his face and ops on his broken leg and crushed hip. The operation to close the hole in his head was delayed as the titanium part had to be made in the USA. Once that was done he recovered quickly and was able to fly home by Christmas. He says he doesn’t consciously remember us being with him and thinks he dreamt it!

After spending a year convalescing at home during which time he had his ruptured left eye removed and a hip op, Gregg returned to Taiwan and started Haxstrong in an effort to thank and pay back all those who helped him in his time of need. It is a miracle that Gregg survived this ordeal.




“The shock was so great that my body was literally rejecting to accept that this actually happened.”

At 9am on the Sunday morning of 5th September, I was woken by a phone call from Henry. The phone call was brief and he told me that Gregg was in a motorbike accident and had been admitted into the hospital. At the time, I didn’t know how serious it was so I was reluctant to get out of bed and got to the hospital. Before this, Gregg had been in the ER twice in the past month for some minor injuries and I remembered thinking to myself – What is it this time…..?

I arrived at the hospital about half an hour after receiving the phone call. While I was downstairs getting ready to go up to ICU, the hospital called me again and asked me if I can come into the ICU sooner. “Ok, now I really am concerned.” I thought…

Going into ICU upstairs, the doctor and the nurses walked me to his bed explaining to me what had happened. Finally, I saw Gregg lying in bed with different kinds of tubes all over him. His face was swollen, his eyes were bruised, and his cheekbones were uneven. If it wasn’t for his tattoo, I most certainly wouldn’t have been able to recognise him.

The doctor told me that his coma scale is 3. (a normal level should be 15) He only had reaction to pain, nothing else. He had skull and facial fractures, his hip was twisted and one of his eyeballs was burst. As the doctor told me about all these injuries, I just felt like I was being bombarded all at once.

Finally, the doctor looked at me and said, “At this point, there’s nothing we can do to save him, it’s too dangerous to operate and do brain surgery because the pressure is too high and his brain is too swollen. I am not sure if he can make it. It’s better you contact his family and the embassy right now. The following 48-72 hours will be crucial to whether he survives or not.”

I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I ran into the bathroom and vomited. The shock was so great that my body was literally rejecting to accept that this actually happened. From the moment I stepped into the ICU, every moment felt so surreal, even until today, it just felt like a dream and not real at all. I didn’t cry, I think that’s my coping mechanism. I know there was a long road to go from there on, whether he survived or not. If I cried, I would start to crumble down and I couldn’t let that happen.




“There was a lot of support from a lot of talented people.”

Haxstrong’s origins were in a meeting above an art gallery. When it became clear that financially this could be a real issue I called a meeting of Gregg’s friends who would be inclined to help. It was a fortunate crew of people who were pretty visible in the expat scene. Eventually some general parameters were set up that would govern the organization that would be called Haxstrong.

At that moment the intention was to simply help Gregg, who was, and I assume still is maybe the most popular and visible guy in Kaohsiung. Ryan Jones, Audrey, and Henry took the lead on just about everything, all I did was call that early meeting and help arrange the benefit, as I recall. There was a lot of support from a lot of talented people.

We threw a benefit at Brickyard which was one of the larger events we’d had at that point.

That’s about all of the visibility I have into the story of Haxstrong, a name that was coined by Ryan Jones who designed the striking visual campaign for Haxstrong that had so much to do with its success.

Regarding the accident, I remember finding my way into Gregg’s hospital room a couple of hours after the accident, before anyone else was allowed in, and man–It was something else. A twitching mass of bloody purple bandages, unrecognizable as anything except damaged. I sort of wondered where everyone was. I didn’t realize there were about forty people in the waiting room, waiting for the clock to tick over to visiting hours.

Henry pretty quickly took operational point on the whole process. I don’t see how any of this would/could have happened without his making it so. Just about every decision was washed through him, and he and Audrey were extremely busy with every aspect of this process.




“It honestly was, despite the sadness of the circumstances that had brought us together, one of the greatest nights of my life.”

Henry really was the leader of the charge, as such, when it came to organising meetings, staying on top of communication with all sorts of people and getting folks together. Yero, of course, played a fantastic role as co-organiser and motivator; I remember Yero being an absolute ball of energy, and possessed of a rare, honed focus. Henry too was utterly singular in his goal, and both of them really spearheaded the efforts. Audrey too worked tirelessly and with unflappable dedication, and yes, as mentioned, Ry Jones played a major role in the whole affair. It was he, as I remember, who came up with the name Haxstrong and its striking superman- themed design.

In those days the Kaohsiung expat scene was a lot smaller than it currently is, with far fewer foreign residents than there are now. There was a strong sense of community amongst us, and Gregg was, as the manager of one of the most prominent, if not the most prominent foreigner pub in the city, a popular figure not only in the expat community, but also in segments of the younger Taiwanese community. Having a magnetic personality, boundless enthusiasm and oozing charm and a rare, genuine generosity and willingness to not only accept but to befriend anyone who strode, crept, swaggered or stumbled through the doors of the Pig and Whistle meant that Gregg was one of the most universally loved figures of the KH scene.

Regarding Gregg’s accident, I felt just as much shock, grief and crushing sadness as everyone did upon seeing the swollen, bloody and seemingly lifeless body of the young man who had been one of my best friends, now lying on that hospital bed with all sorts of tubes coming out of him. The prognosis was grim, there seemed to be little hope of him surviving, and there was a period of collective grief and mourning that had us spiralling downward into a state of catatonia, panic and paralysis. A sense of helplessness threatened to overwhelm us all, and quite likely would have had it not been for the courage and tenacity of Henry, Yero, Audrey and Ry, as well as others like Ryan and Graham of Brickyard, Gregg’s former manager from Hess, Colleen, my bandmates (and best mates) Paul and Nick, and close Taiwanese friends like Rose, Leifson and others.

What happened next was nothing short of magical. From this place of utter despair and grief came a surge of collective energy, a tremendous and fiery sense of not only momentum but unity. The bonds we shared as friends and as a tightly-knit expat community were strengthened and infused with fresh vigour. Everyone operated with a sense of burning optimism and defiant hope. My band (Liger Attack, of which Gregg had been bassist prior to his accident) headlined the fundraising show put on at Brickyard. The show/event was called Pledge for a Ledge (“Ledge” a slang form of “legend”, a South Africanism and one of Gregg’s most well-known catchphrases), and when we took to the stage that night it felt as if we were all collectively possessed by this utterly entrancing, supremely energising sense of unity, fire and purpose that can only be described as cosmic power. It really felt as if we were musically channelling the incredible sense of unity, hope and love that saturated the air of the club that night like a glorious haze. We (and every other musician who performed that evening) played with unbridled passion and enthusiasm, and the crowd responded in kind with their voices and the movement of their bodies – and the seemingly boundless pledges and donations that just kept on rolling in. It honestly was, despite the sadness of the circumstances that had brought us together, one of the greatest nights of my life. I only wish that Gregg could have been there to see it himself instead of straddling the border between the world of the living and that beyond it at the time.

Other fundraising events were put on, but this one, to me at least, holds the most intense and lasting memories.




“It just became this sort of icon of his spirit while he was recovering and served its purpose as a recognizable image of the guy we all knew, loved, and wanted to support in his time of need.”

Greg was one of the most magnanimous people around town. He was like a 1-man welcoming party (and I do mean party) who made an instant impression in the best way on all who met him. I made his acquaintance after I’d been in town a short while, maybe a year, and then it was always hugs, smiles, and hi-fives (often all 3) any time I’d see him out and about after that.

The news of his accident spread almost instantaneously, and there was obviously this immediate shockwave that went through the tightly-knit foreigner community. It seemed impossible that such a thing could happen to such a fellow, but so it goes, and the outpouring of worry and grief was immediate on all forms of communication.

I’d met with tragedy on several occasions before this, and as a compulsive creative, have usually tried to combat the effects in the best way I know how, which is through creating something. So, I sat down and did my best to design a portrait of strength and hope that best represented Gregg, in poster format. I wanted it to be a reminder to help everybody who was freaking out that this was no ordinary human; if there was anybody who would pull through it with flying South African colors, it was Mr. Haxton, and thus, HAXSTRONG was inadvertently branded.

After I posted in on FB, it just became this sort of icon of his spirit while he
was recovering and served its purpose as a recognizable image of the guy we
all knew, loved, and wanted to support in his time of need. I’m honored to
have helped in the way I know best throughout the ordeal, and am elated (as I’m sure we all are) to watch Gregg continue to be a positivity-generator with the HAXSTRONG charity and become even more of a keystone of the community than he was before. The Plesh Has Prevailed!

I echo my peers sentiment in spreading the credit around where it’s due, so massive props to Henry, Audrey, Yero, and everyone else who donated their time, money, and energy to getting a good man back on his feet.